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Roads Policing Message – Motorcycle Safety

Currently in Ireland Motorcycles represent 1.4% of the total number of registered vehicles. However in 2022 they accounted for almost 15 % ( 23 fatalities) of the total number of fatalities on our roads. To date in 2023 two motorcyclists have lost their lives on our roads.

The majority of incidents involving motorcycles are avoidable and all too often, are simply the result of basic errors made by riders. Motorcyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups of road users. They are six times more likely to be killed on the road than any other road user. 

Motorcycle PPE

There are several types of important PPE which are essential for motorcyclists. In the past we focused on helmets and last year we spoke about airbag vests.

While researching for this year’s motorcycle segment, I was made aware of injuries suffered by motorcyclists because of a lack of a Back Protector and the wearing of inappropriate footwear. As a result, I have chosen to focus on these two pieces of essential PPE for the motorcycle rider. 

Back Protectors

It is commonly known that a motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of personal protective equipment when it comes to motorcycling.

A motorcycle back protector is the second most important piece of PPE and is something that a significant number of riders go without. A back protector is a piece of body armour designed to protect the spinal column in the event of a collision. It works by dissipating impact energy in the event of a fall.

Back protectors come in different shapes, sizes and fitments. The most common are inserts that slide into a pocket in the back of your motorcycle jacket. These are the easiest to fit and generally they are designed in combination with the jacket. There are also standalone back protectors which the rider puts on before their jacket and they generally fit with waist and shoulder straps to keep the armour in place.

Whilst most motorcycle jackets come with shoulder and elbow protection, they regularly do not come with back protectors. There are approximately two motorcyclists per week receiving life changing injuries in Ireland which are often spinal injuries. Whilst legally you are not obliged to wear a back protector, they are a smart option as they protect the spine in the event of a collision.


When purchasing a back protector, it is important to choose one that is suitable for you and your style of jacket. It’s also important that it has been tested and meets the current CE standards. Motorcycle PPE which has been tested and meets the current standard will have a label similar the one below.


Motorcycle Boots

Motorcycle boots are another item of PPE that many motorcyclists seem to go without. Especially in the summer months we see a lot of motorcyclists wearing shoes, runners and even flip flops. Again there is no legal obligation on a motorcyclist to wear boots which have been specifically designed for motorcycling but they will offer greater protection in the event of a collision.

Motorcycle boots will typically provide protection with the use of rigid material. They will provide structural strength to prevent your feet and ankles from being crushed, wrenched or twisted in a collision. When purchasing boots, it is important to ensure they have been designed for motorcycle riding and that they meet current CE standards. 

POWDER check should be carried out by the motorcyclist prior to each journey. 

P - Petrol. Important to have enough petrol to complete journey as running out could leave motorcyclist stranded. Know if the motorcycle has a reserve tank or a warning light.

O - Oil. Know how to check the oil level on your motorcycle. Making sure the motorcycle has the correct amount of oil in the engine – which will reduce engine wear and prevent engine seizure which could lead to a collision.

W - Water. Know how to check the coolant level. Is motorcycle water or air cooled? Modern machines will have a warning light to alert rider of a problem.

D - Damage. Check the motorcycle for signs of obvious damage, such as indicators, brake and clutch levers. Light lenses and mirrors should also be checked. Is there any noticeable damage to wheel rims or tyre walls? Are there any drips or pools under the motorcycle?

E - Electrics. Are you sure all your lights and indicators are clean and working? Horn and brake lights should also be checked. Know where the fuses are and how to replace them.

R - Rubber. Your tyres are an essential component of motorcycle safety. Ensure they have adequate tread depth (1.0 mm is the legal limit in Ireland). Make sure they are inflated to the correct pressure and defect free.

More information on this can be found on the RSA website www.rsa.ie.

In June 2021 Gardaí from DMR Roads Policing at Dublin Castle launched BikeSafe on a pilot basis.

Bikesafe is a workshop that includes a classroom workshop which covers topics such as collision causation, cornering, positioning, overtaking, observation, braking, hazard perception and use of gears. This is followed by an observed ride out with an advanced Garda motorcyclist who provides feedback to identify strengths and areas for development. This gives the rider an impartial assessment of their motorcycle riding ability. BikeSafe raises awareness of the importance and value of bridging the gap and progressing on to accredited post-test training.

Due to the success of the BikeSafe pilot and the overwhelming number of applications received, the 28th March 2023 will see BikeSafe launched and made available at 14 centres nationwide. More information can be found on the Garda website. 

Garda Adrian Corcoran – Roads Policing Unit